Future Implications


In social media, things are constantly changing, new platforms are being developed, new research is being released, and audience wants/needs are changing. This rapid pace has major implications for brands embarking on a new social media initiative or growing an existing program. Think about 5 or 10 years ago…do you remember news on the predicted the success of Facebook? The rise of mobile users? The new platforms that were just in development? It’s virtually impossible for marketers to predict what social media will look like in a few years. For example, Pinterest grew rapidly (after a bit of a slow burn) thanks to a combination of a trend for consumers to favor visuals, the rise of responsive web design, increased support for mobile data use, and a decrease in attention spans. It’s easy to see how a a brand may feel that they need to take advantage of the latest and greatest trend in social media to stay current. However, a further evaluation may reveal that the new platform isn’t a good fit for the brand’s target audience or business objectives. For this reason, it’s critical to review social media as part of the overall business objectives, not just in a vacuum. Frequent and thorough evaluation paired with careful strategic planning will help drive continued growth of a social media initiative, no matter the changes to the trends or technology.

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Viral Marketing Initiatives

It’s easy to see why so many organizations are trying to “go viral”: content marketing can drive results for brands by increasing awareness and loyalty, driving engagement, increasing website traffic, and using exposure to turn fans into customers. Unfortunately, with so many brands diving into the content marketing space, the competition for audience attention is going to get more and more steep. You may find yourself asking, why does one campaign go viral while countless others see only moderate success (at best)?

Here are a handful of characteristics of that help to drive the success of viral campaigns:

1. Write a meaningful headline that communicates both context and the potential value of the content.

In order to go viral, first you need to get people to view your content, and a great headline is just the tool you need to get those clickthroughs. The best headlines grab your attention, then make you curious, while simultaneously offering the potential for value. You can find great examples of top-performing headlines on this list from content-aggregator Digg. If you need help getting started on your own headlines, take advantage of resources like this infographic , this handy chart of the top- and poorest-performing words in viral headlines, and even this fun “Mad Libs” list.

2. Your content should elicit a strong, positive emotional response from the masses.

According to Libert’s research, some emotions perform better than others. Emotions like amusement, surprise, and joy all perform much better than images that inspire despair, anger, or doubt. This is another reason that visual content, like photos, videos, infographics, and memes all tend to go viral. They are easy to understand, and they cause the user to feel an immediate, visceral reaction. Ideally, your content will appeal to the masses; it’s hard to have a viral hit if you’re catering to a small, niche audience. For a great example of a viral video that crosses country borders and language barriers to tug at your heartstrings, check out this video from Pampers Japan.

3. Make it timely and “authentically helpful”, or tie it to the “public good”.

One reason that initiatives like #BringBackOurGirls, #KONY2012, and the “Ice Bucket Challenge” perform so well is that they are tied to causes that people care about. However, brands can think carefully about a social issue that they may be able to support with their own marketing. For example, AT&T’s “It Can Wait” video raises awareness about the dangers of texting and driving (while simultaneously creating buzz around the AT&T brand).

4. Focus on “shareabilty”–creating a viral coefficient higher than 1.

“Shareability” means that users want to, and are able to easily, share content. Ideally, every 1 person that views your content will share it with more than 1 other user (indicating that your campaign is growing). Providing social widgets (like “Add This”) and using Facebook OpenGraph and Twitter Cards all help to facilitate easy sharing. One reason that YouTube videos in particular go viral is that they are just so darned easy to share: YouTube seamlessly integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, search engines, and e-mail. Make it easy for your users to find the “Share” buttons while they’re still feeling that initial, emotional reaction and motivated to take action.

Create great content that people want to share, then make it easy for them to do so.

Create great content that people want to share, then make it easy for them to do so.

5. Plan a well-coordinated, multichannel launch.

Libert believes that the “viral cycle time” (or the time that it takes for a viewer to see the content, then decide to share it) needs to be less than 1–2 days. Why is this important? Because for the your content to truly make waves, you need to hit the ground running and take advantage of every bit of momementum. One great example in 2013 was the launch of Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” initiative.

With the video serving as the anchor for the campaign, Dove worked the media circuit, discussing the campaign with media outlets prior to launch, including viral content masters Mashable and HuffPo. Dove also promoted the #wearebeautiful hashtag, and created a web landing page. The campaign went on to become the most viral campaign of the year, and the most viral video of all time. Take a page from Dove’s book, and focus on rolling out your content using other tools in your marketing mix (especially traditional and earned media placements).

Further Reading

Garrett, C. (2009). How to create headlines that go viral with social media. Social Media Examiner. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-create-headlines-that-go-viral-with-social-media/

Libert, K. (2013). The secret recipe for viral content marketing success. The Moz Blog. [Web log message] Retrieved from http://moz.com/blog/the-secret-recipe-for-viral-content-marketing-success

Libert, K., & Tynski, K. (2013). Research: The emotions that make marketing campaigns go viral. Harvard Business Review Blog. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/research-the-emotions-that-make-marketing-campaigns-go-viral/

Stampler, L. (2013). How Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ became the most viral video ad of all time. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-doves-real-beauty-sketches-became-the-most-viral-ad-video-of-all-time-2013-5

Toure, M. (2013). Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ is viral campaign of the year. Advertising Age Digital Edition. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/the-viral-video-chart/dove-s-real-beauty-sketches-viral-campaign-year/245608/

Zarella, D. (2013). Viral math: R-naught and Zarrella’s hierarchy of contagiousness. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://danzarrella.com/viral-math-r-naught-and-zarrellas-hierarchy-of-contagiousness.html#


pepsi and coke Facebook and twitter page screenshots

The “Pepsi Challenge” was my childhood introduction to one of the most fundamental questions of all time…Coke or Pepsi? The two soda companies have one of the most legendary and long-lasting rivalries in American history. It’s no surprise to see them taking their battle into the social media ring.

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Bite-sized blogging

Would you describe yourself as a busy person? Let’s pretend that you’re tasked with taking on a new assignment every week. You can choose between two tasks: one that takes three hours of your free time (roughly 20 minutes a day), or one that takes about seven hours. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to save those four hours for some quality TV time and tackle the three hour task instead!

When it comes to blogging effectively, you have a choice. Let’s face it—not everyone is passionate about banging out 800 well-written words regularly. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then microblogging might be a much better fit for your personal style. Microblogging allows you to post regular content updates, respond to comments, and interact with other users (as long as you stay “bite-sized” at about 140 characters or less). Rather than managing a full web presence with a domain and site design like you would with a traditional blog, microbloggers use a service (like Twitter, but there are others) and manage a basic user profile. While on a regular blog you may struggle to hit readership in the double digits, a microblogging platform will give you much broader reach more quickly. On Twitter, for example, there is a huge community of people constantly seeking original content created by other users that they can interact with.

If you decide to microblog, The Tao of Twitter has a handful of best practices that can help you to effectively use Twitter in just 20 minutes a day.

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Top 3 Challenges Creatives Face When Using Social Media

To date, I have discussed some of the tools that you can use to incorporate social media into your personal brand. Now, I’m going to take a few minutes to discuss what I consider to be the top challenges that creatives face when using social media.

The problem: Complicated “Terms of Service” agreements

Let’s start with the biggie—there’s an inherent risk with sharing your work using social media, especially via a third-party platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, or similar. Each of these sites requires you to accept a lengthy of “terms of service” agreement. Buried in paragraphs of legalese, they will describe the rights that they have over the content that you post to their site. At best, they will state that they can use your work to promote their platform. At worst, once you share your content, it becomes part of the public space. There can even be a clause that states that they can change the terms of service at any time.

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Flip your content with Flipboard


Flipboard is a free mobile app that takes advantage of two of the biggest trends in digital content: mobile and social. At its core, Flipboard is a news aggregator with a gorgeous user experience. The app will help you to discover content by aggregating tailored-for-you content from across the web, news sources, publishers, and social networks. The immersive in-app experience allows you to read stories and articles, watch videos, and browse through countless photo streams. You can also connect your social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ to see what your friends are posting and easily share articles with them. Spend just one hour using the app, and you will easily see see why Flipboard has become a global favorite since its launch in 2010. In fact, Flipboard’s audience has grown to more than 100 million active readers and adds 250,000 to 300,000 users every day.  It is the most popular of the magazine-like content aggrregator apps for iOS, Android, Kindle, and Nook.

You can use Flipboard to manage and discover various content streams, but businesses can really benefit from using this robust and powerful service in other ways.

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Creative pros need social media too!

social media icons on a rainbow of chalk

If you’re a design professional, you’re probably familiar with how social media is driving change in our industry. As print budgets continue to shrink, our clients are looking to social media to increase the reach and effectiveness of their products. From websites to online marketing materials, infographics, and more, we are designing the content shared on social media. Unfortunately, even though we spend hours and hours creating content for our clients, we often fail to manage our own professional presence online.

According to The Creative Group, companies aren’t just investing more dollars into social media marketing—they’re looking to hire designers with experience and expertise in this area to lead social-centric marketing campaigns. It’s not enough to have an online portfolio of work you have done for other campaigns. You need to show that you’re savvy with social by managing your presence on both personal and professional platforms.

Get started with these 5 simple steps:

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